National-team duty takes bite out of Sounders' offense
The Sounders will be without Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson and Mario Martinez — all playing in World Cup qualifiers — for Saturday's game against San Jose.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders @ San Jose,
7:30 p.m., Ch. 5
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TUKWILA — When is having a star-studded MLS lineup a detriment?
Answer: During a FIFA international window, periods reserved for national-team games like exhibitions, tournaments or — like this weekend — World Cup qualifiers.
That is the challenge Sounders FC is facing heading into Saturday's 7:30 p.m. game at San Jose. Seattle, seeking its first league win of the season, will be without the talented trio of Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), Eddie Johnson (U.S.) and Mario Martinez (Honduras), who are serving with their respective national teams.
"It's good that national teams want our guys — that's obviously good," said coach Sigi Schmid. "The timing right now isn't good necessarily for us because we're at the start of the season, we're trying to find ourselves and we finally got the whole group together. So some training time would have been nice."
San Jose is also facing a similar issue with starting defenders Victor Bernardez (Honduras) and Justin Morrow (U.S.) away with national teams.
Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani said having to play league games during an international window is strange, "because you expect not to lose key guys for such big games. At this point of the season we need the three points, and those guys could help us."
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said the whole idea was new to him since league schedules in Europe work around international windows. MLS does sometimes, but not always.
"I guess if you have a better team, you might lose more players," he said.
The added challenge for the Sounders is that this weekend's absences all fall in the same area of the field: up front. Martins and Johnson are the team's top two forwards and Martinez is one of Seattle's attacking midfielders.
The return of David Estrada from an ankle injury could help. The 25-year-old forward hasn't appeared with the first team this season but played 45 minutes in Sunday's reserve game.
So is there anything MLS can do to avoid these conflicts amid what is already a nine-month schedule?
"It's just a massive matrix that is really difficult to manage, bordering on impossible," commissioner Don Garber told The Washington Post. "We are getting better. We're more focused on it."
Schmid didn't blame the league, which has twice given the Sounders schedule relief to accommodate their CONCACAF Champions League run.
"Weekend dates are very important for the subsistence of the league in terms of revenue types of issues," Schmid said. "It's tough to open up all those weekends, and I can understand that."
Sounders sign Fairclough, Lund
The Sounders signed Jamaican defender Ashani Fairclough and Danish midfielder Philip Lund on Friday. Each has been training with the team for a couple months.
Fairclough, 20, was an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Lund, 23, was here on a tryout basis since the start of preseason.
Terms of the deals were not disclosed, per MLS and team policy. The duo will be added to the roster upon receipt of their visas and international transfer clearance.
• Midfielders Brad Evans and Shalrie Joseph are expected to be out against the Earthquakes with calf strains, but both are expected to return to practice next week. Defender Patrick Ianni is also out (broken foot).
• Defender Adam Johansson was officially waived Friday.